Just a nameless weakling who's incredibly nub at everything
What's my idea for the future multiplayer gaming architecture? The following image briefly outlines the core structure of a hybrid model:
Note that the client side should have next to no game state or data, nor audio/visual assets, as they're supposed to never leave the server side.
The following's the general flow of games using this architecture (all these happen per frame):
1. The players start running the game with the client IO
2. The players setup input configurations(keyboard mapping, mouse sensitivity, mouse acceleration, etc), graphics configurations(resolution, fps, gamma, etc), client configurations(player name, player skin, other preferences not impacting gameplay, etc), and anything that only the players can have information of
3. The players connect to servers
4. The players send all those configurations and settings to the servers(those details will be sent again if players changed them during the game within the same servers)
5. The players makes raw inputs(like keyboard presses, mouse clicks, etc) as they play the game
6. The client IO captures those raw player inputs and sends them to the
server IO(but there's never any game data/state synchronization among
7. The server IO combines those raw player inputs and the player input configurations for each player to form commands that the game can understand
8. Those game commands generated by all players in the server will update the current game state set
9. The game polls the updated current game state set to form the new camera data for each player
10. The game combines the camera data with the player graphics configurations to generate the rendered graphics markups(with all relevant audio/visual assets used entirely in this step) which are highly compressed and obfuscated and have the least amount of game state information possible
11. The server IO captures the rendered graphics markups and send them to the client IO of each player(and nothing else will ever be sent in this direction)
12. The client IO draws the fully rendered graphics markups(without needing nor knowing any audio/visual asset) on the game screen visible by each player
The aforementioned flow can also be represented this way:
The advantages of this architecture at least include the following:
1. The game requirements on the client side can be a lot lower than the
traditional architecture, as now all the client side does is sending the captured raw player inputs(keyboard presses, mouse clicks, etc) to the
server side, and draws the received rendered graphics markup(without
using any audio/visual assets in this step and the client side doesn't
have any of them anyway) on the game screen visible by each player
2. Cheating will become next to impossible, as all cheats are based on game information, and even the state of the art machine vision still can't retrieve all the information needed for cheating within a frame(even if it just needs 0.5 seconds to do so, it's already too late in the case of professional FPS E-Sports, not to mention that the rendered graphics markup can change per frame, making machine vision even harder to work well there), and it'd be a epoch-making breakthrough on machine vision if the cheats can indeed generate the correct raw player inputs per frame(especially when the rendered graphics markups are highly obfuscated), which is definitely doing way more good than harm to the mankind, so games using this architecture can actually help pushing the machine vision researches.
3. Game piracy and plagiarisms will become a lot more costly and difficult, as the majority of the game contents and files never leave the servers, meaning that those servers will have to be hacked first before those pirates can crack those games, and hacking a server with the very top-notch security(perhaps monitored by network and server security experts as well) is a very serious business that not many will even have a chance
4. Game data and state synchronization should no longer be an issue,
because the client side should've nearly no game data and state, meaning that there's should be nothing to synchronize with, thus this setup not only removes tons of game data/state integrity troubles and network issues, but also deliberate or accidental exploits like lag switching(so servers no longer has to kick players with legitimately high latency because those players won't have any advantage anymore, due to the fact that such exploits would just cause the users to become inactive for a very short time per lag in the server, thus they'd be the only ones being under disadvantages)
The disadvantages of this architecture at least include the following:
1. The game requirements on the server side will become ridiculous - perhaps a supercomputer, computer cluster, or a computer cloud will be needed for each server, and I just don't know how it'll even be feasible for MMO to use this architecture in the foreseeable future
2. The network traffic in this architecture will be absurdly high, because all players are sending raw input to the same server, which sends back the rendered graphics markup to each player(even though it's already highly
compressed), all happening per frame, meaning that this can lead to
serious connection issues with servers having low capacity and/or players with low connection speed/limited network data usage
3. The maintenance cost of the games on the business side will be a lot higher, because the servers need to be much, much more powerful than those running games not using this architecture
4. Because the players are supposed to send raw inputs per frame, and there will be limits of the number of packets to be sent to the server per second, it means that either the game tick rate on the server will be capped by the lowest network packet sent rate among all layers(otherwise they'd behave like not inputting anything once every several frames), or some kind of input synchronization mechanisms will be needed between the server IO and the server game state set(but it's still a much lesser evil than synchronizing game data/states between the client and server sides)
Clearly, the advantages from this architecture will be unprecedented if the architecture itself can ever be realized, while its disadvantages are all hardware limitations that will become less and less significant, and will eventually becomes trivial.
So while this architecture won't be the reality in the foreseeable future(at least several years from now), I still believe that it'll be the distant future(probably in terms of decades).
If this architecture becomes the practical mainstream, the following will be at least some of the implications:
1. The direct one time price of the games, and also the indirect one(the need to upgrade the client machine to play those games) will be noticeably lower, as the games are much less demanding on the client side(drawing an already rendered graphics markup, especially without needing any audio nor visual assets, is generally a much, much easier, simpler and smaller task than generating that markup itself, and the client side hosts almost no game data nor state so the hard disk space and memory required will also be a lot lower)
2. The periodic subscription fee will exist in more and more games, and those already having such fee will likely increase the fee, in order to compensate for the increasing game maintenance cost from upgraded servers(these maintenance cost increments will eventually be cancelled out by hardware improvements causing the same hardware to become cheaper and cheaper)
3. The focus of companies previously making high end client CPU, GPU, RAM, hard disk, motherboard, etc will gradually shift their business into making server counterparts, because the demands of high end hardware will be relatively smaller and smaller on the client side, but will be relatively larger and larger on the server side
4. The demands of high end servers will be higher and higher, not just from game companies, but also for some players investing a lot into those games, because they'd have the incentive to build some such servers themselves, then either use them to host some games, or rent those servers to others who do
In the case of highly competitive E-Sports, the server can even implement some kind of fuzzy logic, which is fine-tuned with a deep learning AI, to help report suspicious raw player input sets(consisted of keyboard presses, mouse clicks, etc) with a rating on how suspicious it is, which can be further broken down to more detailed components on why they're that suspicious.
This can only be done effectively and efficiently if the server has direct access to the raw player input set, which is one of the cornerstones of this very architecture.
Combining this with traditional anti cheat measures, like having a server with the highest security level, an in-game admin having server level access to monitor all players in the server(now with the aid of the AI reporting suspicious raw player input sets for each player), another admin for each team/side to monitor player activities, a camera for each player, and thoroughly inspected player hardware, it'll not only make cheating next to impossible in major LAN events(also being cut off from external connections), but also so obviously infeasible and unrealistic that almost everyone will agree that cheating is indeed nearly impossible there, thus drastically increasing their confidence on the match fairness.
Of course, games can also use a hybrid model, and this especially applies to multiplayer games also having single player modes.
If the games support single player, of course the client side needs to have everything(and the piracy/plagiarism issues will be back), it's just that most of them won't be used in multiplayer if this architecture's used.
If the games runs on the multiplayer, the hosting server can choose(before hosting the game) whether this architecture's used(of course, only players with the full client side package can join servers using the traditional counterpart, and only players with the server side subscription can join servers using this architecture).
Alternatively, players can choose to play single player modes with a server for each player, and those servers are provided by the game company, causing players to be able to play otherwise extremely demanding games with a low-end machine(of course the players will need to apply for the periodic subscriptions to have access of this kind of single player modes).
On the business side, it means such games will have a client side package, with a one time price for everything in the client side, and a server side package, with a periodic subscription for being able to play multiplayer, and single player with a dedicated server provided, then the players can buy either one, or both, depending on their needs and wants.s.
This hybrid model, if both technically and economically feasible, is perhaps the best model I can think of.
Also published on RPG Makers Central.
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